Sunday, July 10, 2005

Whose job is it anyway?

Preschoolers expelled. Kindergartners restrained. Classrooms in chaos, and teachers left unable to manage the unruly behavior of a loud and undeniable few. What’s up with all this?

“Parents will do anything for their children. Anything, Miss Manners has observed, short of actual childrearing.” (Check out her column here.)

Hmmm. Interesting idea.

Of course, Miss Manners (aka Judith Martin) is known for her unapologetic, steely opinions. In her column this week, she puts the responsibility for our children’s behavior squarely where it belongs:
“It's not that parents don't realize that their children need to learn manners, morals, and how to refrain from repulsing those in a position to give them degrees, riches and happiness. They simply do not see teaching these as being their job.”

Gone are the days when the kindergarten teacher at my school can concentrate fully on the traditional business of early childhood education. The new, frenzied focus on academics notwithstanding, Mrs. B spends a lot of her time doing what I call “civilizing” her darlings.

How and why we use a napkin.
Take turns talking.
Look up and speak when a grownup greets you.
“You suck!” is not polite, appropriate speech.

Says Miss Manners, “Parents were supposed to teach (their children) respect for authority and not to hit and scratch others. Lapses will occur, but they need to know and accept the principles. If not, serious, one-on-one remedial work needs to be done before any other socialization can be taught -- let alone the beginning academics that parents now want in the curriculum.”

The good news is that most children are hungry for all kinds of learning, and caring teachers can find fun, engaging ways to introduce the niceties of life. But when teachers get no help from parents, when the lessons learned at school are directly discounted at home, discourteous and rude behavior becomes the norm.

And what of the critics who say we teachers shouldn't be involved in matters of the home (which early manners training obviously is)? Throughout the edusphere, schools are accused of becoming a system of social workers, a kind of BIG BROTHER, intent on usurping the rights of parents.

We, all of us teachers and parents, have our roles and responsibilities. Wouldn’t it be great if we could count on each other for follow through?


TheWriteJerry said...

Teachers have become social workers thanks to Hillary Clinton's "it takes a village" speak.

What it takes are parents to raise a child, not a village. But many parents have abdicated their responsibility because of this village-mentality. Of course, the cost of living and the "women are nothing without 'careers' of their own" in the United States has made it easy for parents to pass the buck. "My job is to make the babies and make the money" is the clarion call of the village-people. "Somebody else has the job of raising them."

Of course, this then segues into the "how dare you tell me that 'homemaker' is not a real job" argument. Let me tell you, my mom raised four kids -- I defy any career woman to tell me that their job was harder or more fulfilling. As if being the editor of Vogue or Ms. could be more of a challenge than corraling four active kids, feeding them, teaching them right from wrong and preparing them for the world.

PS: I'm not just sticking women in the homemaker role. I'm all for male homemakers. One parent working outside of the home and playing a support role in the home, the other working to make the home -- that's how to raise kids.

Anonymouph said...

Ms. Manners doesn't get into the cultural roots of child-rearing, or "home training" as my students call it. I have an incredibly hard time retraining my students to behave in the classroom because, at home, they are taught to fight back whenever anyone wrongs them, purposely or otherwise. When I reprimand a student for hitting or calling names, I often hear, "But, Mz. Smlph, my mama tell me that if I ain't fight back, she gon' hit me when I get home." I agree that kids should be taught to be assertive and to stand up for themselves, but the "training" many of my students receive at home makes my time with them in the classroom extra challenging.

Mrs. Ris said...

I see Hillary Clinton's village proposal as a RESPONSE to the parenting gap rather than the cause. In fact, the whole movement to serve the myriad of children's needs comes as a result of perceived gaps in parenting skills.

I've never heard a parent I see as "neglectful" admit that they are not parenting, and they intend for others to do the work for them. Instead, these parents blame me for judging them, using cultural, socioeconomic or race differences to explain different ideas about raising children well.

I work with ED kids, and the gaps in parenting I see are quite pronounced, and not likely to be excused by most adults. So I am talking about stuff like allowing 6 year old kids to roam the neighborhood til late into the night, not doing any homework or reading with them ever, taking first graders to violent or sexually explicit R movies, having pornography easily available to the kids (movies, magazines), encouraging kids to respond to frustration/anger in an aggressive manner, cursing in anger at me in front of their childen, etc.

Whew! No wonder I feel so stressed out at the end of the day and the year! :)

GuusjeM said...

Ever year we get a crop of what I call the "feral kindergartners". Kids who we swear have never been taken out in public - let me amend that, I see them in all their feral glory in the grocery store. It is apparent that at home these kids have no rules and no boundaries and their word (or their tantrum) is law. Pushing, shoving, hitting, me first, me always first and the hell with anyone else. It's really sad